Helping the Elderly Remain Independent
In 2019, seniors made up 19% of the population, with 54 million individuals and counting. As our population continues to grow, so will this number.
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities cannot accommodate all of these older adults. However, not every senior needs specialized help. Many choose to maintain their independence and continue living at home well into their 70s, 80s, and 90s.
Nonetheless, everyday tasks become more complicated as your loved one ages. Even with a desire for independence in old age, things like cooking, cleaning, and bathing can be difficult to do alone.
Challenges like these don’t necessarily mean your parents or loved ones need to go to a nursing home or move in with you. Seniors can continue living independently with the right help.
Both in-home care services and home adaptations can make a world of difference when it comes to helping older adults maintain independence. Let’s look at the benefits of elderly independence and what you can do to help the seniors in your life stay in their homes and enjoy aging in place.
The Benefits of Promoting Independence in the Elderly
From the time we are children, we crave independence. We desire the freedom that comes with making our own decisions and doing what we want when we want. However, independent living becomes challenging, and even frustrating at times, as we hit old age.
Tasks that were once simple enough to complete quickly might take a little more time now. You’ve probably noticed your loved one losing some mobility or struggling with everyday chores like folding laundry or cooking their favorite foods. This can be frustrating and negatively impact their mental health.
Like most families who experience this struggle, the first thought is to look into nursing homes or assisted living. However, most people don’t want to lose their independence if they don’t have to.
According to the most recent data on the share of senior households living alone in the United States, over one-third of senior women and 21% of senior men live already alone. This suggests that, if they can, seniors have a significant preference for maintaining their independence by choosing to age in-home.
So how can you help your loved one retain their independence and stay at home, whether they are living alone or with their partner?
Using an in-home care service enables seniors to age in their homes. They get help with everyday tasks but still retain the freedom to live as they choose. Ultimately, when seniors stay in their own homes, they don’t have to give up all that’s meaningful about their current lives.
Older adults benefit from independent living because they are familiar with their surroundings, comfortable in their home, and can make their own decisions, all of which strengthen their physical, emotional, and mental health.
Benefit 1: Familiarity with Surroundings
Seniors who age at home have improved aging experiences. A 2018 study on aging found that having a sense of well-being and preserving mental health are critical factors in healthy aging, and knowing exactly where you are when you wake up every morning can help with this.
Familiar surroundings create a sense of stability and comfort—which is essential for someone who may be dealing with the early stages of memory loss or other aging-related challenges.
If your senior wakes up in an unfamiliar place, it can upset their emotional and mental stability. This is known as confusional arousal, a phenomenon in children and adults that occurs when someone suddenly awakes, but remains confused or disoriented about where they are.
And while most people will eventually recognize their surroundings, older adults who struggle to remember where they are cannot easily adapt to new surroundings. This is why leaving their home can lower their quality of life and affect their mental health overall.
Conversely, seniors staying in their own homes can always count on the familiarity of their surroundings. This can translate to less stress and anxiety and a greater sense of security and confidence.
Benefit 2: At-Home Comforts
There’s a reason the phrases “There’s no place like home” and “Home, sweet home” permeate American culture. Home is supposed to be a place of rest and solitude. We are supposed to be most comfortable at home.
These feelings don’t magically change when we get older—if anything, the desire for home to be a safe, comfortable haven increases since we spend more time there than anywhere else.
According to the AARP’s 2021 Home and Community Preferences Survey, three-quarters of older adults responded that they want to stay in the same home and community they’re in now. From their home layout and furnishings to a garden they enjoy working in and neighbors they love to chat with, seniors feel more comfortable and happier at home. Simply put, seniors prefer to age in place in the comfort of their surroundings.
Benefit 3: Sole Decision-Making
One of the hardest things about moving into a nursing home or assisted living facility is that seniors lose some of their decision-making ability. On the other hand, when your loved one lives and ages at home, they maintain independence and most of their personal autonomy.
Having the freedom to choose how they spend their time, what they eat for dinner, and other everyday things reinforces the awareness that they aren’t helpless. It also allows them to continue doing the things they love in their own space, whether that’s cooking, gardening, painting, or any other hobby.
This aspect of elderly independence can help seniors remain positive and mentally healthier.
How In-Home Services Can Help Seniors Stay Independent
Independent living doesn’t mean you aren’t getting some help from other people. Everyone needs assistance with things, whether you’re living in your first home as a young couple or coming up on 40 years in the same residence.
For the latter, the challenges of life are a bit more complicated because there can be physical limitations that come with aging. Tasks may take longer to complete or put those aging at risk for injuries or falls. However, the presence of these challenges, while very real, don’t have to drastically change a senior’s life—nor does it have to limit them.
Seniors can live independently, even if they need help with a few things. To encourage independence in elderly loved ones, you can turn to flexible in-home services that resolve the specific challenges your family member faces.
Whether they need transportation services because it’s not safe for them to drive, personal care, or simply a helping hand around the house, there’s a solution that can help seniors stay in their homes.
Here are some of the services you can consider to help your aging older adult through their golden years:
- Companionship – A caregiver will come and spend time with your senior. Your loved one can mentally engage in conversation and games during the visit. But most importantly, your senior will not be alone, thereby limiting the adverse effects of social isolation.
- Light Housekeeping – One of the most challenging things for aging adults to maintain is routine house chores. You and your elderly parents never have to worry about washing dishes or folding laundry with housekeeping service from a senior care provider. A caregiver can help you with those chores, thereby promoting independence.
- Meal Preparation – Cooking is a challenge for many people, especially as we age. With meal preparation services, a caregiver assists in planning meals and cooking food, so you never have to worry if your family member is eating a healthy diet.
- Medication Reminders – Many older adults have mental or physical health concerns and need to take medications to manage their health. To help with this, caregivers provide medication reminders, ensuring a senior is taking their medicine at the right time and in the correct amounts. Caregivers monitor any side effects and report them to you and the doctor. This goes a long way in promoting senior independence because there’s no worry over missed medications.
- Personal Care – One of the most challenging things for elderly loved ones is to admit they struggle with things like dressing and bathing. Addressing this difficulty requires a sensitive caregiver who understands the importance of patience and empathy.
- Transportation services – Whenever your senior needs a ride to a doctor’s appointment or to go out with friends, you can call a care provider to drive them safely to and from their destination.
- Hospital to home – Sometimes, elderly adults return to hospitals within 30 days of discharge. To combat this loss of independence, trained care providers can help older people smoothly transition from hospital care to home care.
Each of these services can act as additional support that allows seniors to continue living on their own while staying safe. Living independently with some assistance also means you and your family can save thousands of dollars in medical bills and housing costs.
The average price of a private nursing home room is over $8,000 a month. The average cost for in-home care ranges from $1,700 to $7,700. In-home care is drastically more affordable, and for those who crave independence in old age, it’s more desirable, too.
How to Adapt a Senior’s Life for Independent Living
When you decide to use an in-home care service, there are a few things you need to do to help your loved one have the best experience. Certain accommodations can make your senior’s life much better.
Changes in Construction
Depending on the home’s layout, you might need to make some changes to the design to make independent living possible. Some potential changes to promote independence include:
- Changing stairs to ramps for easier access and transportation. Ramps are great for older adults who have difficulty walking. It is much harder to trip on a ramp.
- Leveling floors is another excellent way to prevent trips and falls. Since some rooms have a step to enter a new space, redoing the floor or installing a short ramp makes the entire house more accessible.
- Adjust the height of countertops and ledges for easier access. For seniors who use wheelchairs, countertops are too tall, so it’s difficult to reach things further back. Lowering shelves makes it easy for these older family members to get everything they need.
- Change the home’s layout to focus on providing quick and easy access to the most frequented rooms during the day. This change might mean moving the master bedroom to the first floor, to the front of the house, or near the kitchen.
- Widen the doorways so walkers and wheelchairs can easily navigate through the home.
- Change the tub to a roll-in shower. Whether or not your loved one uses a wheelchair, having a roll-in shower makes bathing much easier for everyone and improves safety.
Accessories for Independent Living
Construction changes are essential for helping your loved one continue living independently. However, once things are changed, you might want to include accessories for safety purposes. When outfitting your senior’s home, consider installing and using the following items:
- Home alarm system and a doorbell camera for security and protection
- Smart home features so your loved one can adjust lighting, temperature, and security from their smartphone
- A wearable medical alert system, such as a medical alert bracelet or necklace
- Handrails near stairs and ramps to provide three contact points for safe walking and navigation
- Assistive seating for staircases in the home
- Corner protectors to keep your loved ones from bruising and cutting their skin on sharp corners
- Extra lighting, such as battery-powered lights for fixtures in the middle of rooms and brighter bulbs in existing lamps
- Non-slip rug grippers and pads to reduce the chance of slips and falls
Talk to your family members about the changes that might help. With the right alterations, they can thrive at home. And you’ll have peace of mind that they are safe, healthy, and happy.
Helping the elderly remain independent is essential for their well-being. Not only does it keep older adults at home where they want to be, but it saves the family thousands of dollars per month.
The best ways to keep your loved one in their own home are to use an in-home care provider with flexible services and to make changes to the home that can help your senior family members and loved ones live safely on their own.
With the team of caregivers at 24 Hour Home Care, your senior can continue experiencing the joys of living at home without the stresses of lost mobility or the challenges that come with age. If you need in-home care, schedule a free consultation with us today—it’s obligation-free.